Understanding The Benefits And Risks Of Chemotherapy

Women starting chemotherapy for breast cancer often expect unpleasant side effects, from hair loss to nausea.

What they may not appreciate is just how debilitating the side effects of treatment can be.

A recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute identified eight serious chemotherapy-related adverse effects that may be more common than reported by large clinical trials.

Fever and infection were the most common causes of hospitalization or emergency room visits. Other serious side effects included low white-blood cell or platelet count, and dehydration or electrolyte disorders.

“Women should be aware that chemotherapy can cause side effects, but should not make a decision regarding whether or not to receive chemotherapy solely based on the results of our study, said lead author Dr. Michael Hassett.

Hassett’s study was not a “randomized controlled trial,” the rigorous type of investigation typically needed to change clinical practice guidelines.

However, several ongoing trials of this sort are looking into the side effects associated with chemotherapy, he noted.

Meanwhile, there are continuing efforts to improve the treatment of patients on chemotherapy.

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